A Few Tidbits

Two little things to share with you all:

1) This morning, Yessa was in the shower, singing her little heart out. I would have made a tape, but I knew she would have hated that, so I didn’t. (Do my children even know what “make a tape” means?)

I wish I could bottle the feeling and the moment. It was precious and beautiful, and when she’s leaving home someday, I’ll think back on it with such sweet heartache.

This sweet, brilliant, funny thing.

This sweet, brilliant, funny thing.

2) In the process of cleaning and organizing while I had my mom here for a visit, I came across an old insurance card. I think you can probably guess why I’ve hung on to it for all these years.

You may call me Jennfor.

You may call me Jennfor.

Someone was actively not giving a crap on this one.

Our last name, sure, it’s a doozy, but “Jennifer”? The most popular name for three decades?

You had one job, data entry person…one job.

The Amazing Buds

A CrossFit Vector friend shared this picture yesterday from the workout he and Buds were doing:

Sled pulls

Sled pulls

They pulled sleds down the highway…cause that’s what CrossFitters do.

Buds said they should have pulled them down to the grocery store on the corner and pulled people’s groceries to their cars.

Mac, the young fellow taking the picture, is half Buddie’s age. Buds bested him in two workouts yesterday.

Buds won’t ever need a trophy wife because he’s got all these Trophy CrossFriends that he can impress.

That sled weighs approximately 60#’s. That’s the same as carrying dragging 8 gallons of milk.

The Princess Bride and A Delightful Surprise

Last weekend we hosted our Second Annual Pizza and Movie Party for members of our church and some extra friends. The movie this year was The Princess Bride.

Buds and I worked hard to get the outdoor space ready so we could have the movie outside…about 20 minutes before people were to arrive, the downpour began.

We had known it was going to rain, but we thought it would be a brief, light shower. Instead, it rained long and hard enough to convince us that we needed to watch the movie indoors. This necessitated lots of scurrying and moving of electronic equipment in the rain.

About 20 minutes later, the rain had cleared so the children were able to have snail races, and s’mores for dessert was still on the menu.



New fire ring serves a crowd.

New fire ring serves a crowd.

In addition to sharing the evening with comfortable friends from church…and laughing at The Princess Bride…we had the fantastic addition of long-time, though not often seen, friend, “Plummy.” She and her sister and family were driving from Texas to Kentucky to bury their parents’ ashes, and Nashville was their stop for the night.

Thena graciously provided taxi service so Plummy could join the party.

She and I have been friends for so long that she gave us a mix-tape as part of our wedding present. That’s old-school, people!

Sweet love songs.

Sweet love songs.


Having her here, even for just a few hours, was such a joy. Knowing someone for decades, and being able to introduce your children to a friend that “you’ve known even longer than Daddy?!” was a treat.

Though I was sorry for her reason for traveling through town: We spent many fun weekends at each other’s homes in college, and both of us have laughter-filled memories of the other’s parents, I’m so grateful we had the opportunity to reconnect. I expect more visits in the not too distant future.

So much love!

So much love!

And from twenty-three years ago: a selfie before they were cool:



Fi refers to it as “glamping.” Camping at a spot where you drive right in, unload your tent, have an air mattress, a flush toilet and shower are close by…not to mention friends, laughter, a great fire, and coffee in the morning.

We’d been planning this weekend for over a year. Our kids were a little hesitant because we’d just gotten back from our long drive home from Vermont. We weren’t even unpacked from that yet. Buds and I knew if we could just get ourselves out the door, we’d have a great time.

And we did.

Time outdoors, in beautiful weather, with comfortable friends, and even a cave and a playground?! What’s not to love?

We’re planning on doing it again. Though not for awhile.

Snuggled in in the tent. Yum!

Snuggled in in the tent. Yum!

Friends, tents, and devices.

Friends, tents, and devices.

Everybody loves a good fire.

Everybody loves a good fire.

Mornings with friends.

Mornings with friends.

Off to explore a cave.

Off to explore a cave.

In we go.

In we go.

A little cave exploration

A little cave exploration

Any pictures I would have taken inside the cave.

Any pictures I would have taken inside the cave.

Monkey patiently waiting for us slower folks.

Monkey patiently waiting for us slower folks.

The cave was muddy.

The cave was muddy.

Out we come.

Out we come.

That was fun!

That was fun!

A lovely snake we found sunning itself.

A lovely snake we found sunning itself.

Gorgeous fire.

Gorgeous fire.

Visiting with friends.

Visiting with friends.

Threatening The Buster to help us get a group picture.

Threatening The Buster to help us get a group picture.

The silly group picture.

The silly group picture.

Fun picture

Fun picture

Then Buster made us laugh.

Then Buster made us laugh.

Vermont Adventure or The One with Pickles, Pukes, Sap, and Annie

I’m trying to decide which parts of our Vermont Adventure I want to remember for all time. Monkey getting sick at the first rest stop in New Jersey? Her strong heart and amazing spirit are shown by that example, but it isn’t exactly a fun memory.

How ’bout remembering that I lost Kel and Paula within 3 minutes of leaving their house as we began the drive north? They had gotten a new vehicle, and I didn’t memorize the butt of it quickly enough. I have it memorized now, though.

I definitely want to remember that the cd of choice in their van was the “Annie” soundtrack. In our car, Monkey and Taryn sang their hearts out to a cd that Taryn’s family sent us years ago. That’s a great memory.

Learning that Kelly adores pickles, as do I, and we’re trying to share that with our children.

The beauty of Mount Abe. The generous spirit of Chris’ family, the giggles and laughter from the children and the adults all week long. Watching our children share their sense of maple syrup history with their friends. Seeing our kids suiting up to play on the big rock, on which Gem kids have played for decades, hours spent sledding, falling in the snow, rolling down the hill, making up stories, playing Kirby, paint-by-numbers, great meals, more stories, Ben and Jerry’s, seeing Chris’ best friend from high school at the grocery store, drinking lots of wine, more great food.

I want to remember it all. Luckily, Paula took over 600 pictures, so there is much to be used as a memory-jog.

IMG_20150404_091855180_HDRSnuggles before we begin our long drive home.

Paula and I did some wood splitting for fun.

Enjoying mud season.

Playing a game in the sunny kitchen.

Games at Uncle Scott’s new store: Tinker and Smithy.

That gorgeous, gorgeous view.

Kel getting in touch with her fire-starter side.

Painting in the kitchen.

Contemplating the sugar maple.

Smiley selfie.

Preparing the trees.

Look at those pink cheeks!

Games with Grandma by the fire…Heaven!

I love the “James Bond” music in the video. Not sure how to make it not be sideways, but enjoy anyway!

Tastes better than soda.

Laughter in the sunny cold. (This may have been the time Monkey’s leg was trapped and we had to dig her out.)


Ben and Jerry’s Graveyard of Flavors.

Ben and Jerry’s Fun.

IMG_20150330_182537362 Our Monday night dinner together.

IMG_20150330_170159735_HDR Snowy Fun

IMG_20150330_131344080_HDROur first stop at the Vermont Country Store on the way north.

IMG_20150330_130736671_HDRMonkey, Paula, and I LOVE this place. The rest of the team was willing to go with us.

IMG_20150330_084529989Snuggled at our hotel in Albany on Sunday night.

IMG_20150330_084115504_HDRThe room was wonderfully huge!

IMG_20150331_192603679 This is so Star Trekky! Taryn is showing her whole family the snow in real time while I take a picture of them to appear on my blog for them to read later. Infinity!

IMG_0483Some snowy fun.

IMG_0482She’s fallen!

IMG_0490Sledding buddies.



IMG_0675Visiting by the fire.

IMG_0607Love the people, love the view!

IMG_0665Stoking the fire is my very favorite job.

IMG_0497Strawberry cheesecake ice cream sample at B&J’s.

IMG_0533Preparing to go tap trees.

IMG_0596Happy, happy sap tappers.

IMG_0540Kelly with a drill. Look out trees.

IMG_0610One of the kind souls who opened her home for a week to strangers who quickly became friends and even gave up her bed for the week!

IMG_0660She survived the sled ride!

IMG_0576Tapping in the tap. Tap, tap.

IMG_0598We’re all just so darn cute in the snow, all bundled up.

IMG_0556Listening to Nonni knowledge.

IMG_0643Bucket hanging glamour shot.

IMG_0565We look like an Outward Bound class.

IMG_0639Working for our supper.

IMG_0683Snuggled with a book by the fire. Such a great life!

IMG_0700Watched sap does boil!

IMG_0714The early fruits of our labors. Little Mother was so kind in making sure each of us had syrup to take home with us from the sap we helped gather. That meant a lot.

IMG_0831At the game store on Little Papa’s birthday.

IMG_0790Preparing to give a wood chopping lesson.

IMG_0826This picture summarizes so many things: Kate dancing along to the song in her head. Bets guiding Yessa along, which Yessa loves, and Buster and me trailing along behind, me listening to a story he has to share. Love this one.

IMG_0740On top of the beloved rock.

IMG_1069On our last night, the moon was nearly full and the water rushing in the river was thunderously loud. We all made time to stand on the deck to enjoy it and be awed.

IMG_1064Enjoying sugar on snow. So many parts of this trip felt like walking through a Little House On The Prairie book, this activity included.

IMG_1010My fourth child was a wonderful addition to the family.

IMG_1043Happy Sugar On Snow faces.

IMG_0870Rolling down the hill.


IMG_0993Sunny and snowy and smiley.

IMG_0999Happy to be together.

IMG_1061Everyone enjoys it!

IMG_1059Delicious snow.

IMG_1003Trying for a family shot.

IMG_0885Fun in the sun on the side deck.

IMG_1004Hauling more buckets. Notice the t-shirt sleeves. It got warm!

IMG_1029Out to eat to celebrate our week on our last night together.

IMG_1034Walking to the car from dinner on the last night. We’ve added another kid to the mix!

IMG_0998Wine, sun, snow, and smiles.

IMG_0874I just love this picture.

We take up a whole sidewalk.

We take up a whole sidewalk.

We take up a whole sidewalk.

20150402_152042 Our generous, gracious, kind, loving hosts.

20150402_150400The one child to complete her very intricate paint-by-number by the end of the week.

20150402_145148True Vermonters

IMG_0888L.M. by the evaporator.

20150402_144117The glorious lion sunning its mane on the family rock.

20150401_191242The pink mountain

20150401_161031Signs of a successful day.


IMG_0864Dumping the buckets.


IMG_1020L.M.’s round wood pile. We were all impressed!

IMG_0857More of the rock appearing as the snow melts.


IMG_0960It was definitely Mud Season for part of our time there.

20150330_104820There were some famous basketball player sightings during our time in Albany.

IMG_20150405_095926014_HDRPuppy pile in our last hotel all together.

No matter where you go and what you do, take a friend along for the adventure.

This photo by Louisa.

This photo by Louisa.

You can read Taryn’s post about our week here. She does a great job explaining the sap gathering process.

It was a magical week. I’m so glad we finally made it happen.


We’ve been receiving Tinker Crates as a simple way to bring fun experiments into our life, and Monkey brought the Hydraulics experiment to life this week. It was such a fascinating, effective way to get us talking about hydraulic systems which are all around us.

She thought and worked and fixed.

She thought and worked and fixed.

Something's not working correctly.

Something’s not working correctly.

Let's try this...

Let’s try this…

Yessa joins the fun.

Yessa joins the fun.

The grabber hand ready to go.

The grabber hand ready to go.

Hilarious Yessa Insight

Yesterday I had a long visit with our Ministerial Candidate, Rev. Carmen.

When I got off the phone, Yessa, our 8 y.o. asked who I had been talking with.

“Rev. Carmen, our new minister.”

“Oh. This one, do we get to keep her?”

It took me a minute, then I realized she was talking about Rev. Rachel’s Interim status. Rachel, our current Minister, was our Interim Minister, meaning she could only be with us for 2 years, and that has been known from the very beginning.

“Yes,” I replied. “Rev. Carmen will stay with us as long as she wants and as long as we want.”

“So, Reverend Rachel, she was sort of like Hamlet. We kept her until she found a new home.”

Hamlet was the cat we fostered for a couple months until his “furever” home was found.

“Yes, just like Hamlet,” I replied.

I love how kids’ brains work.

She's so smooth.

She’s so smooth.


Buds planned two surprises for the kids and me while we were away.

The first was a new fire ring! We broke it in with s’mores and friends last night.




The other fantastic surprise was a rower! We’ve been talking about getting a rower for years, and Buds bought it and put it together as a pat on the back for the months of work I’ve put into helping choose the new minister for our congregation. We look to be headed toward success on that project, and our family life will settle down a little bit.

IMG_20150406_163953053_HDR (1)

Isn’t it so beautiful?

After he showed it to me the first time, we were walking upstairs from the basement and I said, “Now I know you’ll never leave me.”

“Because we’d have to decide who got custody of the rower?” he responded.

Yup, we belong together.

Day One Or The One Where The Puking Begins

The anticipation for a trip you’ve been talking about for years…it can be overwhelming.

I’m not even sure how it started, the discussion about Kel, Paula, and the girls joining us in Vermont for maple sugaring some year. I imagine it started around their dinner table in the adult conversation time we always had after one of our many shared meals.

I probably told some story about helping to gather sap, and Kelly probably said, “We’d love to take the girls to do that sometime.”

Then, this year, we finally made it happen. K & P committed to take the girls out of school if necessary. I committed to loading our crew into the car on short notice to begin the long journey north when the phone call came. And The Little Mother promised to share her sugaring data with us, and to let us know when it looked like the sap was ready, willing, and gatherable.

Eventually it became clear that the sap would very likely line up with Spring Break for K & P’s girls, so that became our target.

My crew and I packed up the car on a Saturday morning, watched Buds excel in his final CrossFit WOD of the 2015 Open, then we headed out for the great white north.

We didn’t get on the road until 10:30 a.m.’ish, and it was a different time zone and 10 p.m. when we finally pulled into the Holiday Inn Express in Woodstock, VA, where Buds had booked a room for us.

The goal was to get a great night’s sleep, then be in the car around 8 a.m. for the final hour of the drive to K & P’s where we’d meet up with Monkey’s Buddy Taryn, who was going to adventure north with us, and car pool behind K & P in their new van as many hours as we could.

We did get a good night’s sleep, but both girls were up with the shukes about 5 a.m. I believed at first that Yessa may have had sympathy pukes, but as time wore on, we came to believe that the meatloaf from the night before had not been a good choice.

True to her amazing spirit, Monkey napped for awhile, and we were on the road by 10 a.m., only a couple hours behind our completely arbitrary schedule. Yessa, also, rebounded with amazing speed, it seemed.

And thus ended the first 24 hours.

This is how Buds looked after his workout.

He's only "mostly" dead.

He’s only “mostly” dead.

That was also how Monkey and Yessa looked when they woke up in the first hotel after the first round of pukies.

Spoiler Alert: The trip gets much, much better.